There will be proper reporting of the country’s county cricket matches this summer, thanks to a deal brokered by the Cricket Writers’ Club and the England and Wales Cricket Board.
We reported in March that PA Sport, the national news agency which had previously hired freelancers to cover all the four-day county championship and other one-day competitions of the 18 first-class counties was cutting back and would no longer staff every games.
The decision was thought to affect the work of around 20 sports reporters.
The move led to complaints from the CWC on behalf of its members over PA’s intention to provide “reports” from its Howden offices apparently based on little more than score updates and Twitter, even though the company holds the contract for managing the ECB’s official website.
But in a statement to members issued over the Bank Holiday, Mark Baldwin, the new chairman of the CWC, announced, “An agreement with ECB has been reached which will mean, from June 14 until the end of this season, that all county cricket matchdays will be again reported by an eyewitness writer.”
ECB will now pay for the journalists to attend the matches, and these reporters will file copy to, among others, PA Sport.
“The solution is a radical one,” Baldwin said, “but in my view also one to be applauded. ECB, having exhausted attempts to get PA to reconsider their decision to dispense with regionally based freelance cricket writers, have decided to grasp the nettle and fund those very same journalists themselves. They will pay the freelances directly, even though all copy will be filed – as in previous seasons – to PA, for them to distribute via the general wire to their customers (which, of course, include ECB).”
Involved in the discussions were Andrew Walpole, the ECB’s head of communications, and Colin Gibson, the former Sunday Telegraph sports editor and past winner of the SJA’s Sports Writer of the Year Award, now a senior media figure at Lord’s after a spell as director of communciations at the ICC in Dubai.
Significantly, the settlement was arrived upon after the first month of the season, when there had already been complaints about some games that had been played out without on-the-spot agency coverage.
“I believe it greatly helped ECB to reach their final solution when they heard at first-hand the depth and strength of feeling we had as a club,” Baldwin said, “and the ways in which we were willing to offer ECB our help. All along, we had stressed above all else how the PA decision was bad for cricket.”
Of course, reporters working for sports governing bodies is nothing new. Indeed, as our business changes dramatically, news management for sports bodies and clubs is becoming an ever larger sector of many sports journalists’ work. So while having the ECB commissioning the journalists’ work has the possibility of impingeing on the possibility of critical coverage, under the circumstances the move by the sports body is enlightened and is very welcomed.
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